Captain Zhu Ting led the China offence with 20 points, including 19 spikes, and Gong Xiangyu was superb in scoring 18, with 17 spikes.
For Thailand, Sittirak Onuma top-scored with 14 points, Apinyapong added 13 and Kanthong Malika and Nuekjang Thatdao both scored 11.
It was no surprise to see Thailand starting quickly and taking the game to China, the world’s top-ranked team. Even with the injured Kokram Pimpichaya and Kongyot Ajcharaporn watching from the stands, the Thais could rely on their old guard of Onuma Sittirak, Wilavan Apinyapong and Malika Kanthong to produce a steady supply of points, supported by the middle blockers Thatdao Nuekjang and captain Pleumjit Thinkaow.
In a great atmosphere, with large groups of flag-waving Thai and Chinese supporters, China also showed their quality through Yuan Xinyue, Zhang Changning on the left and Gong Xiangyu.
Every point was greeted with hysteria or despair on and off the court, and every tumbling rally drew gasps from the crowd. Leading 23-19, the Chinese were pegged back to 23-22 forcing a TO. In a frantic finish, China took the first set 28-26 on their third set point – a winner from Gong – after Thailand had missed one opportunity of their own.
In the second set, Gong was prominent again on both spike and block, notably stopping a Wilavan thunderball, and Yan Ni helped China to 16-11 at the second TTO.
Zhu’s spikes and Yuan’s block saw China home down the stretch 25-20 for 2-0.
Gong and Zhu were proving to be China’s main threats, while the bulk of the Thai points were supplied by five players, led by Onuma.
The Chinese knew from experience that the Thais would never give up, and that they would have to keep the pressure on to complete a straight-sets sweep.
The third set followed this pattern exactly, as Malika and Wilavan served aces, Pleumjit struck with her trademark spike across court from an overhead set, and setter Tomkom Nootsara guided one into space in the front court.
China led 16-15 at the second TTO and southpaw spiker Li Yingying gave the Thai defence something different to deal with. China called a TO at 18-18 and again when leading 23-22. Gong, inevitably, settled it 25-23 on China’s second match point.
Captain Zhu Ting: The key point about today’s game was that we were cooperating with each other all the time in order to get the victory. As captain I want to motivate my players so I was talking to them a lot during the game.
Captain Thinkaow Pleumjit: The match was very tough because China is a tall team and very speedy. We tried to keep a high block but China is fast and we could not deal with that, especially the China No. 2 Zhu. I tried to hit a strong serve but China received really well.
Head Coach Danai Sriwacharamaytakul: Before the game of course we knew it was going to be very tough so we prepared as best we could. I am always happy to play against China because they have great skills, speed, power and height. We learn a lot every time we play them.
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